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Creating Access to Care in Our Community

Rosalind Franklin University Health Clinics' mobile health vehicle embodies the university's commitment to health equity and access to compassionate, quality care. The Community Care Connection (CCC) travels throughout Lake County to reach underserved populations and offer treatment, prevention and education. The CCC also serves as a powerful educational environment for RFU students who volunteer to assist the licensed physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners who staff the mobile unit.

Andrew Martin, CMS '22, who boarded the CCC with other RFU students on a hot summer day during a festival in North Chicago, said he frequently sees patients who don't have the means to prioritize their health.

"We catch people with blood pressure and blood sugar levels over 200 or crazy high cholesterol and we connect them to care right away," Andrew said. "We understand that people are making tough choices. Do they buy groceries or pay for a doctor visit? Patients tell me they can't remember the last time they were seen. It's important as a future physician to understand how pervasive that is, to really let it sink in: so many people are living on the edge."

The CCC is fueled by a multitude of partnerships, including seven health clinics and more than 30 community organizations that host and promote site visits. More than half of the vehicle's approximately 216 visits in fiscal year 2018–2019 were to North Chicago, Waukegan and Zion, municipalities where poor health-related measures reveal disparities in care.

While patients in urgent need are quickly connected to care, the CCC also focuses on helping people find a primary care home in service of prevention and wellness.

CCC students learn, and licensed clinicians practice the skills of care that are hallmarks of community health: communication, empathy, shared decision-making and teamwork. Aboard the CCC, RFU students connect with patients as individuals. They make eye contact. They learn to listen, to encourage, to show they care.

"So often in health care, time is in short supply," said Marie Luke, PA-C. "Inside the CCC, we're able to sit with our patients and explain why it's important to take their medication, explain the reality behind the numbers — hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure or cholesterol. Once they understand the numbers, a light turns on and they begin to take responsibility for their health. They join the team. That's the power of patient education."

The CCC also partners on RFU student-led community health efforts. It works closely with the Lake County Health Department's Live Well Lake County initiative, a community health improvement plan that targets prevention and treatment of the county's top chronic conditions: cardiovascular disease and hypertension, obesity, behavioral health and diabetes.

Posted November 19, 2019
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